Troubling Speed of Global Warming

Climate change acceleratingProfessor James Lovelock is making similar warnings as those found in this blog lately, that the rate of observable global heating appears to far exceed even the most pessimistic predictions [ark | moreark] made by the cautious, conservative and at times political IPCC climate science process. He expresses concern that the speed with which climate change [search] is progressing will lead to ecological and social crises as “6 to 8 billion people face diminishing food and water supplies in an increasingly intolerable climate”. Earlier this year the IPCC concluded in their fourth assessment that the full range of projected temperature increase by the end of the century was 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius, with a best estimate range of 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius (linked Guardian article differs).
Yet Professor Lovelock believes even this quite substantial and dramatic rate of global warming understates the speed with which climate is changing now. IPCC predictions made earlier this year appear to be dramatically outdated already, as global heating impacts have revealed themselves in actuality rather than models. Troublingly Lovelock suggests this means that staggered, slow efforts to reduce emissions and promote sustainable development will fail due to sheer inertia and lack of time. He states “we are at war with the Earth and as in a blitzkrieg, events proceed faster than we can respond … For this reason alone, it is probably too late for sustainable development… implementing Kyoto or some super-Kyoto is most unlikely to succeed” largely because of climatic feedbacks.


Professor Lovelock believes IPCC computer models underestimate the magnitude of climate change by failing to consider manners in which living organisms release and absorb greenhouse gases; failing to account adequately for climate impacts of deforestation, marine population reductions and ocean acidification. Further, I note IPCC predictions not only generally exclude the possibility of the most extreme abrupt and runaway climate change [search] outcomes, but they also fail to adequately take positive climate change feedbacks into account. And they only go out for 100 years, what happens after that?
The point of the matter is that there exists great uncertainty [ark] regarding the rate and scale of impacts of climate change, that may not ever be able to be predicted prior to being revealed by their occurrence. Whether or not you agree with the assessment that we are farther along towards abrupt and runaway climate change than generally acknowledged, these more pessimistic assessments need to be given more prominence, as they have been excluded as international scientists and governments seek concensus rather than truth and the full range of possibilities. It may or may not be too late to embrace emissions cuts and sustainable development of the magnitude needed in the time we have. Yet clearly we need to be speaking of emission cut goals for 2015 and not 2050; and outlawing known climate culprits as we purse alternatives.

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15 Responses

  1. zephyr says:

    I just finished reading the above-referenced article:
    It's Too Late for Greenhouse Cuts, Says Scientist
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/29/climatechange.sciencenews
    I found it very unnerving, particularly the last sentence:
    …..He (Lovelock) will call for research aimed at reducing climate change by protecting ecosystems or altering them in ways that help them reflect solar radiation or absorb carbon dioxide…..
    On November 8th and 9th, Harvard University will be hosting an invitation-only workshop on geoengineering at which, among others, James Hansen (NASA GISS) and Kerry Emanuel (M.I.T) will be present.
    Tinkering With the Climate to Get Hearing at Harvard Meeting
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/318/5850/551
    There seems of late to be a lot of support building in favor of evaluating large-scale geoengineering approaches to climate change mitigation.
    I am pressed for time at the moment but I just want to say that I wish more members of the climate research community would come forward and start speaking directly to the public instead of allowing the results of their studies to be mediated by – well – the media.
    Believe me, a great many people WANT to hear directly from the scientists.

  2. ewoc says:

    Glen,
    I don't believe that the IPCC report predicted temperature rises nearly as drastic as you outline – I think the forecast was more in the 2 degrees celsius range. As you know, the IPCC is consensus-based and inherently conservative as a result. Their forecast for rise in sea level was similarly conservative, and has been used by Lomborg et al to advocate essentially doing nothing now and waiting for improved technology supposedly coming later.
    I am sure the next IPCC forecast will be much more dire, but it won't come around for another five years – perhaps too late.

  3. Dr. Glen Barry says:

    Ewoc,
    I made the mistake of relying upon the figure quoted in the Guardian newspaper article rather than looking it up myself. What I think has happened is lumping together the IPCC's “full range of projected temperature increase”, which is 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius, with “best estimate range of projected temperature increase” which is 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius. There may also be confusion in the article re: IPCC predictions for end of century, and climate sensitivity of a doubling of carbon. I have made reference to the confusing Guardian figure in the entry. Of course, these even slightly more conservative figures highlight the exact concern raised in the blog entry even further. Thank you for pointing this out. Anyone else that can further elucidate on the matter would be appreciated.
    Regards,
    Glen
    Additional IPCC Findings on Future Climate Change Rising Temperatures from Union of Concerned Scientists

  4. ArndB says:

    Prof. James Lovelock used to be a good scientist, and a man with lot of imagination, presumably too much. What he is telling now is hardly more than his personal emotion, and it seems he likes to make himself heard widely, if one compares this speech he made now with those he made 19 years ago (see: http://whatisclimate.com/variousII.html ), when he said the following:
    (1) Britain's foremost environmental scientist last night launched an outspoken attack on

  5. zephyr says:

    AmdB wrote:
    …..Prof. James Lovelock used to be a good scientist, and a man with lot of imagination, presumably too much. What he is telling now is hardly more than his personal emotion…..
    Perhaps Prof. Lovelock's perspective has expanded over the course of his lifetime to encompass a more holistic view of the situation now before us.
    I personally find it difficult to understand how anyone who is following the literature (not to mention simply paying attention to what is going on out there for the last ten years) can manage to avoid FEELING something in response to the increasing destabilization of our delicately interconnected life-support systems.

  6. Zenon says:

    I come here every day since two years and I still read the same things. There is blood on the walls and we are still throwing names and numbers. The baby is crying and the parent are still shouting at each other, addind to the problem rather than taking real care of it. Ga

  7. danley b wolfe says:

    Help..does anyone know details on the extent to which climate models take into account technological changes in their forecasts: including greater energy / carbon efficiency in existing devices and new devices that wil have step t hgough through changes. On top of that we have onsumer behavior modification if we are sucessful in educating them. The erriciency matter will shift COx emissions by least 35-50% by the mid term term
    period.
    Danley Wolfe – Ohio dwolfe@gsb.uchicago.edu

  8. Patrick says:

    Hello all and good afternoon.
    I would like to say that with the dire predictions being made, even by the most prestigeous science minds in the World, and lack of progress being taken at this time, something is brewing. A great awakening of the people, coming together, formulating ideas, turning into solutions which will drastically take action, far oustanding what is though possible today.
    We will see the greatest revolution ever taken place on this Earth. A revolution not of violence, hate or bloodshed. But one of peace, love, for the Earth. Our only home afterall. And that is the most beautiful part about it. Our home is at stake. And naturally as a species, we will not stay by the dwindling stream until it runs dry, we will adapt, evolve and take action to this matter, and all matters for that matter, and be well again.
    Much sooner than we thought.
    With love
    Patrick and The Earth

  9. Before we can find our way forward to a good enough future for our children in a sustainable world, I suppose we must find a way to organize and maintain SUSTAINABLE COMMUNICATION about the global challenges posed to humanity by the unbridled, skyrocketing growth of the human species and its soon to become patently unsustainable consumption/production activities now overspreading the surface of Earth.

  10. Patrick says:

    Hello all and good day once more, the sun has risen again in the eastern sky!
    We must not only take a path of sustainability in these times of great importance, we must also take the path of attaining happiness through the Earth, the people around us, love; non material things. For we have developed into a mega society which values material pocessions sometimes more than our own families. It will be much easier to convert those to a sustainable path if we teach them the lifestyle of being happy and content without needing material pocessions, which consume resources. This will not be very hard, for as I see it, people are not very happy these days and are looking for a way of a different life. One that ensures their children will be safe, one that will help our Earth survive.
    Getting back to our roots; art, music, food, dance, games, enjoying and appreciating natures beauty; yellowstone, the great himalayas, yosemote, the great smokey mountains. Getting back to these roots, which we all enjoy, will help take us to the path of sustainability much faster and efficiently. For we will have found enjoyment without our material pocessions, which take us on a path led not by ourselves, but by corporations and profiteers who look to pursued us into buying goods, simply for the fact of buying them to have them and fill a void inside of us. A void that can be filled with love, happiness, our love for nature and the outdoors, our love for people, our love for our family. A path to sustainability.
    For if we think, our family and friends can keep us company and we can enjoy and have fun for days upon years. There are billions of people out there waiting to have that kind of fun. Our Earth is our family, let us put down the silly shields and walls we have built up against each other, and be free once more.
    A path to sustainability is freedom
    The Earth

  11. R. Gates says:

    I love some of the optimism expressed here – about putting down our shield and humanity uniting…but where in human history have we seen this? As resources dwindle and food shortages and water shortages increase, it has been the overwhelming trend of humanity to fight MORE, not less. I would like to think that humans would suddenly be infused by some cosmic unselfishness, but I haven't seen that in history, so I don't suspect it will happen now. Oh sure, there will be pockets of bright and loving people who mean well, but the hordes will come and want to have food and water, and that's when things could get nasty quickly. Sorry to be a downer, but human nature won't change just because the climate is.

  12. Gary says:

    I am sorry to see an intelligent conversation turn to a apparently drug-induced dialog of “peace and love will take care of everything.” Tell that to the children of Darfur, or the peasants in China who are suffering from the environmental impacts of globalization. Peace and Love will not solve this problem, unless you are stoned enough to ignore the harsh realities that are facing the world, or so focused on your own happiness that you can ignore the suffering of the masses. Real problems need real solutions.
    We can spend all of our energy debating formulas, or praising/discrediting this or that scientific data, but in the end, there is consensus that the sea levels are rising to some degree, the planet is warming to some degree, that there is a global impact to some degree.
    I could cite the numbers that I have read and believe, but that is not the point. As some have suggested, even an increase of a couple of feet in sea levels, or a couple of degrees in temperature, will have significant (catastrophic?) consequences.
    For my two cents, the debate should not be whether we caused it, or how much, but rather what are we going to do about it.
    The current emphasis and resources seems to be on prevention. I submit that while we may be able to adjust some of the numbers with preventative measures, we would save more lives with adaptive measures.
    Lets take the most conservative estimates, and prepare for them. That will save millions. Then lets continue to prepare in a graduating fashion. The number of lives we could save is a far better use of our time and resources than continual debate about who is to blame, or which estimate/formula is accurate.

  13. Too many politicians and corporate CEOs are ignominiously disregarding consistent and overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming and other pernicious forms of climate change. What is woefully inadequate, what is unconscionable, is the dearth of reasonable and sensible leadership by those who have assumed positions of power in the political economy.
    Business-as-usual that adamantly and relentlessly favors unbridled industrialization and unrestrained economic globalization could be approaching a point in history when the huge scale and rapid growth rate of endlessly expanding business activities become patently unsustainable on a relatively small, finite, noticeably frangible planet the size of Earth.
    Perhaps now is the time for national leaders to acknowledge a nest of world problems, the reality of which most leaders remain in denial.
    Given the probability that certain clearly identifiable global problems can be expected to fall into the laps of our kids, it appears somehow not quite right both to willfully leave these problems unattended and, even more disturbing, to fail in the exercise of a DUTY TO WARN our children: a duty to warn them of potential dangers to life as we know it and to the integrity of Earth.
    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/
    http://journals.aol.com/sesalmony/HumanandEnvironmentalHealth/

  14. Robert S says:

    My daughters got involved with global warming as a science topic in their science fair. They created an original song and made a music video. It won first place at the science fair and we are hoping it will help spread the message.
    Check it out:


    Robert S

  15. Kent Ragen says:

    I am hopeful that we have turned the corner because the common consumer is becoming aware of the enormity of the issue. In short order the companies will follow, supplying more eco-friendly products and exhibiting more eco-friendly practices. Market forces will be the catalyst for dramatic changes over the next 12 months.
    Kent Ragen
    kent@ecounit.com
    http://www.ecounit.com

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